Saturday, May 15, 2010
Tiger Prowl is Dead....A Conspiracy Theory:
Some Auburn critics called it a “gimmick” recruiting tactic and scoffed at Auburn’s new wave recruiting idea. The “Tiger Prowl” was actually nothing more than Auburn coaches deciding to all go out at the same time, together as a staff, to schools across the southeast during the spring evaluation period. Most teams split their coaches up and send them in different directions to try and talk to as many coaches, teachers and guidance counselors as possible. Coaches don’t get to actually speak with prospects during the evaluation period. They simply go to the school and talk to the high-school coaches and others about certain prospects they are interested in. Auburn decided to do things differently in that they loaded up as many assistants as the NCAA would allow, (7) and they all went together to show their unity as a staff and try and make a splash.
To get all seven of the coaches in one car to make a trip to a school, they couldn’t take a Ford Focus. They had to have room for all of them and they needed to make a splash. So, they rented limos decked out with AU emblems and pulled up to high-schools in style. Even though the coaches couldn’t talk to their prospects, the “Tiger Prowl” still had an effect. Students seeing those limos pull up at their schools and watching as seven Auburn football coaches stepped out was probably a highlight in some of the student’s monotonous school days. Several prospective recruits have commented on how they thought it was a cool idea and that they appreciated the coaches all coming out to talk to their school about them. So did several high-school coaches. Several of them raved about what Auburn was doing and said it made them and their schools feel special and appreciated.
This year, the Auburn coaching staff took the use of a tour bus, decked out with Auburn murals and logos from end to end. The tour bus is beautiful, equipped with all the bells and whistles and even plays the Auburn fight song. Any high-school seeing this beautiful piece of machinery pull up in the parking lot would have made them feel important and given them the feeling that they have arrived as a high-school football program. In fact, several high-school coaches said as much about that as well. For Auburn, it made them look like a first class program by traveling together, in style that way.
Auburn was operating within the limits of the NCAA by-laws and was breaking no rules. They were making a better name for themselves in the households of up and coming prospects and again, were also very appreciated by the high-schools in which they visited. None of the high-schools complained or said it interrupted their school day. It was something new. It was something smart and it was something that was good for everyone involved.
Earlier this month however, the NCAA, always ready to take the fun out of sports, decided to write a new rule to prohibit this blasphemy in recruiting. In the eyes of this writer however, the ruling that came down from "the committee" was just another in a long line of misguided power and legislation from the college sports lawmakers that wasn’t necessary. Another problem fixed that didn’t need fixing. Oh, they always say the right things and try to make everyone feel warm and fuzzy inside, keeping college sports “fair and equal” in their eyes. To keep everything fair and balanced, this ruling was written as follows:
The NCAA says, “Such actions were just as much to be seen as to actually conduct an evaluation."
So what? Of course it’s as much about being seen as conducting an evaluation. It’s called promoting your program. Last time I checked, the more a particular school promotes their program, the more successful they will become, which equals more money for the university, which equals more money for the NCAA. Why is this considered a bad thing?
The NCAA says, “We conclude that schools are unnecessarily expending resources in order to have multiple assistant coaches attend these evaluations as a result of the perceived recruiting benefit."
Again, So what? Since when does the NCAA have the right to tell a school how it uses its resources, as long as the university is following the equal rights of prop 48 and other equal rights programs etc.? Since when does the NCAA care if a college or university is “unnecessarily expending resources”? So what if there is a recruiting benefit, either perceived or real? Can all colleges not send out seven assistants the same as Auburn if they want to? What extra benefit does Auburn receive? Schools that are not even in the SEC can do the same thing, can they not? In fact, Georgia and Florida State were starting to follow in Auburn’s footsteps and do the same thing. Tommy Tuberville, both at Ole Miss and Auburn was notorious for sending his coaches en masse for top prospects for years. So why the change now?
The new legislation continues with more brilliance as it specifically mentioned, cutting out coaches traveling in limos and “extravagant buses”.
First of all, Auburn coaches used its tour bus for fund raising events, but did not send it to high-schools this spring. Nor did Auburn use its bus on any recruiting trips. Even if they had, how is that an extra benefit? If your local church can charter a bus and put logos on it, I find it hard to believe that any college in Div. I would have a hard time getting the money up to do the same thing if they chose to do so. Not only that, but if you’re sending out seven coaches, what do you expect them to ride in? Do they want Auburn and now other colleges who have copied AU because of its success to ride in a pick-up truck? Do they want them to put two coaches in the cab and five in the bed? How about an El Camino? Is that too extravagant?
The NCAA went on in passing its rule to limit colleges to only being able to send out two assistant coaches to visit a prospect at one time, saying “An army of coaches visiting a recruit can be expensive for colleges and doesn’t really allow for real recruiting evaluation”.
I would like to see the facts this little nugget was built on. Now I admit, I’m not a rocket scientist and math wasn’t my best subject, but this doesn’t make good common sense. If I go one way in a car and six of my buddies all go in separate directions in other cars and my employer has to pay for all of the cars, the cars gas and wear and tear, it seems like that would cost more money than all of us getting in one car together and going to one location. Ever hear of car-pooling? On top of that, who says sending out all of your coaches doesn’t allow for “real recruiting evaluation”? It seems to me, seven heads would be better than one or two and seven sets of eyes and ears are better than one or two. One could be talking to a coach. One could be talking to a teacher. One could be talking with a guidance counselor and so on. We get more done in less time and we’re off to the next school. But, if I’m not doing a good job of evaluating by recruiting that way, as the NCAA says, then my team and my job will be the one to suffer. What does it matter to the NCAA?
Sorry NCAA, I’m not buying what you’re selling. Something just doesn’t smell right about all of this. Let’s consider the timeline for this situation. The rough draft of the proposal was approved by the NCAA Legislative Council on April 13th. The rule was passed and became final on Thursday April 29th, approximately two weeks later. Two weeks? When, in the history of the NCAA have they passed any legislation, from a rough draft to a final rule in two weeks time?
Now, in the spirit of fairness and honest reporting, this whole thing got started by the Big East, who submitted a proposal for the ban on this type of recruiting in July 2009. I guess we could call this the rough, rough draft. Apparently the Big East schools can’t send out their coaches’ en mass for some reason and thought what AU and other schools were doing was unfair. At the end of September the proposal was sent to the Recruiting and Athletics Personnel Issues Cabinet. This branch of the NCAA thought the ban was unfair and wrote a recommendation opposing the ban. The head of that department said it wasn’t something that needed to be fixed and that there was no real tangible benefit to recruiting this way. The Legislative Council however, paid no attention to him or his committee and adopted the ban in a few short months.
All you have to do is look at previous NCAA timelines to see how they generally operate and to see the fast track this ban was on. The NCAA is still investigating USC over the Reggie Bush situation. In case you forgot, Reggie Bush graduated from USC 5 YEARS AGO! On April 26th, 2009 the NCAA hit Hawaii men’s volleyball with probation after investigating transgressions from their program during the 2005 season. That’s four years later. How about Alabama? The NCAA handed down sanctions to sixteen of Alabama’s sports teams in June of 2009, for what was dubbed “Textbookgate”. Those penalties were handed down for teams that had received free textbooks and other benefits during the 2005 to 2007 seasons. That two year investigation was swift justice to the NCAA. Another example is Florida State. In November of 2007, FSU turned themselves in to the NCAA for players receiving extra benefits. Their probation didn’t come down until March of 2009. Again, two years of investigation before ruling. By the NCAA’s own admission on their website, their average timetable for rulings on perceived infractions is around 12 months. That’s their own admission and it’s a very optimistic one.
So the million dollar questions are how and why did Auburn’s Tiger Prowl get put on the two week fast track, from rough draft to final ruling and why wasn’t the recommendation of the Recruiting Cabinet accepted? These questions will probably never be able to be answered with any type of certainty. The NCAA isn’t going to give us any information and neither are any coaches or schools who voiced a concern about Tiger Prowl. With that being said, one can only speculate and look at the individuals in charge.
While investigating this story and trying to answer these questions, the story only became sketchier in my opinion and raised my suspicions even more. I found that the two head honchos at the top of the NCAA pecking order both had something in common. Their former universities and personal relationships both had been affected by Auburn’s recent football recruiting success.
Myles Brand, the former president of the NCAA died in September 2009 and was replaced that same month by an interim president, James L. Isch. Isch was to serve as NCAA president until a permanent replacement was found. Isch has held several high profile jobs in colleges across the country. However, it just so happens that one of interim president Isch’s previous jobs was Vice Chancellor for finance and administration at the University of Arkansas. It’s worth noting we was also once a campus CFO for the NCAA.
Tiger fans know full well the recruiting success Auburn has had in the state of Arkansas in recent years, beating Arkansas out for some of their states most highly touted recruits. However, to say that Isch put the Tiger Prowl legislation on the fast track because of losing football players from the state of Arkansas to AU would be pure speculation and a pretty big conspiracy theory. It would also be pure speculation to say that a man so interested in college finances would be associated with a ruling that was so adamant about schools “unnecessarily expending resources”. It would be pure speculation without a doubt, but it does make sense.
Isch’s tenure is almost up though. Just two days before the Tiger Prowl ruling came down, the NCAA announced its permanent president. Auburn fans will be happy to know (Obvious Sarcasm) that the new NCAA president is long standing friends with Nick Saban, the coach of Auburn’s arch-rival. That’s right; Mark Emmert, the new NCAA president was once the man that brought Nick Saban to LSU and has a long standing relationship with Alabama’s head coach. He probably didn’t have anything to do with the Tiger Prowl ruling. It’s not like Interim President Isch would console and seek the advice of the new permanent president on a matter that would take effect as soon as he took office, right?
Obviously, nobody could prove Saban or Alabama had anything to do with the NCAA passing this rule, but with Auburn’s recent recruiting success and the fact that Auburn has beaten Alabama head to head for some of the south’s top prospects lately, you have to wonder if Alabama didn’t have the most to gain by the NCAA putting the brakes on Tiger Prowl.
People will call this article preposterous and just another wacky conspiracy theory trying to pin something on Alabama and Nick Saban that they really didn’t have anything to do with. Again, I admit it’s a stretch to think everything happened the way I laid it out above and it’s a pretty far-fetched conspiracy theory, to say the least. But in my opinion, the Tiger Prowl rule should be filed in the drawer marked; “Things that make you go hmmm.”
Either way, Tiger Prowl as we know it is dead. We can thank the Big East and the interim president Isch, with his short-sighted committee who didn’t listen to their own recruiting cabinet’s recommendation. That, we know for sure. Somewhere, Nick Saban is thrilled.